Some tough injury news came in yesterday regarding a couple of key players that were a topic of discussion on the OrlandoLionsDen most recent podcast. As per New Day Review and a Orlando City team spokesman, striker Dom Dwyer and midfielder Richie Laryea will both miss anywhere from 2 to 4 weeks with strains suffered in training. On the most recent edition of OrlandoLionsDen podcast, the crew discussed the likelihood of Dom and Richie both starting on March 3 against DC United, which seems highly unlikely now, just a few days later. With this developing injury news, what are the new possibilities for the starting XI come the first Saturday of March?
The first replacement that comes to mind is former NASL MVP Stefano Pinho. After a stellar 2017 season with Miami FC, having 17 goals in 27 matches, he is ready to prove that he is not to shy for the big stage of the MLS. Pinho is a proven goal scorer... in 2015, he had 16 goals in 28 appearances for the Fort Lauderdale Strikers in the NASL, which seems to be exactly what Orlando City is lacking, especially following the departure of leading scorer Cyle Larin.
Will Pinho get the nod on March 3rd if Dom can't strap up the boots? My gut feeling says yes, but the more interesting question is, what comes after that? Just a few weeks ago, the Lions had 3 proven goal-scorers lining up in the striker position. The 4-4-2 diamond formation seemed to be coming together well, but now, with Larin gone and Dwyer hurt, we are left with just one proven goalscorer. Is it likely that the Kreis Diamond will be put on the shelf, at least until Dwyer is back? I think not so fast. Let's look at a few potential options for how Orlando City can lineup against DC United.
The first and most probable lineup to discuss would be with a Meram/Pinho striker duo up top. With Meram up top, Kljestan suspended, Colman injured, it seems unlikely Orlando City will run anyone in that coveted "10" role. Look below and you will see what is the most likely midfield formation should Meram and Pinho start as a duel striking combo.
We saw this formation a lot last year, specifically when Kaka was out of the lineup injured. With our two attacking midfielders being suspended and injured, this is what I expect. Yotun out left, Johnson out right, and a punishing defensive midfield of Higuita and Rosell. Obviously, Rosell is having issues with his ITC and VISA clearing, but he is expected to arrive late this week. As long as he shows up in shape and game ready, you can expect to see him in the XI come March 3rd. This also provides chemistry out right, with buddies Will Johnson and Scott Sutter pairing up to provide the attack down the right flank.
The second lineup possibility sneaks in a new face to the Orlando City lineup. Chris Mueller has been the surprise of the Orlando City offseason, scoring 3 goals in the very secretive preseason scrimmages. Jason Kreis also seems to be in favor of the rookie, even stating that he reminds him of himself and that he "couldn't be happier with what he's all about." Kreis points out that Mueller has a chip on his shoulder and wants to prove a ton of people wrong, exactly what Orlando City fans should want to hear.
With this lineup, Kreis will get to run his coveted Diamond formation, with still a very solid midfield. This formation would allow Meram to slid in to that "10" role, and gives Orlando City much more attacking power presence than the previous 4-4-2 "bucket" formation discussed. With Yotun, Johnson, and Rosell in the midfield, Orlando City would have tons of MLS experience anchoring the middle of the pitch on opening day. This formation seems like it may be the better option... that is, as long as Kreis is open to giving the youngster immediate minutes coming out of College.
With the all-to-familiar preseason injury bug biting Orlando City yet again, and the secretive nature of the Lions preseason, many questions remain yet to be answered regarding the opening day lineup. All we know right now is that Kljestan is suspended, and Colman, Dwyer, and Laryea will likely be listed as out for the game. Will Kreis have faith in a kid who was playing college ball just last year, but appears to be playing well so far? Will we see the (in)famous diamond? Where will Meram play? Will Pinho be able to continue his goal scoring form for Orlando City? What do YOU think? These are all topics to discuss in the next 15 days heading into the opener against DC United, hopefully leading up to the 2nd consecutive home opening victory in our beloved Orlando City Stadium.